Nelson’s Column

As the sun goes down over the Sound of Balta for the final time this year and the Shetland summer comes to as abrupt a halt as our seasonal flow of tourists, twitchers and tomb raiders, I, like the Arctic tern, wing my way south for the winter, i.e. I will be spending the next few months in my old home town of Glasgow.  

I will be rehearsing and performing my new Shetland-based play Baltamire at the Byres Road venue Oran Mor as part of their 2010 autumn season of A Play, A Pie & A Pint. Each week for 15 weeks in the spring and 15 weeks in the autumn, you the punter can buy a ticket on the door and will be handed a pie (steak or quiche) and drink and are treated to a one act play of brand new writing. Typical Glasgow: if ye don’t like the play at least you get a pie.

The play follows the trials and tribulations of a metrocentric city boy sent by contractual obligation to work at the oil rig serving airport on the tiniest little island in the north Atlantic.  There he meets various characters and goes on a voyage of discovery.

“Shetland based play? How dare this Soothmoother proclaim to know of our ways?” I hear many of you cry before you have even seen it. Well don’t worry, everyone gets it in the neck whether, outsider, incomer, transient or native.

So for the next three months, instead of spending my days gazing at Gilliamesque skies of enchanted colours, I will stare up at power lines, high rise blocks and spires and steeples stained with pigeon droppings. While my Shetland life has caused the occasional frustration (wind, darkness, centralisation, wind, casual pub racism, wind) it has afforded me silent nights of dream sleep, a pleasant scenic stroll to the shops of a day, a queueless wait for medical attention, clean air to breath, clean streets to stroll, a strong sense of community values and a safe and healthy environment for the early life of my young son. Glasgow will bring me junkie-strewn dog-messed streets congested with the bulk and noise of traffic, drunkards and sectarianism. And we in Shetland may think we have bad apples in our council barrel, but in Glasgow not a year goes by without eight or nine of them in the dock retiring with a golden handshake before the verdict is handed down. And while some may whinge on and on a bout a bunch of wind turbine spoiling their view, Glasgow is over developing all of its dear green places with totally unnecessary, overpriced, “luxury” apartments that nobody wants to buy.

But then again I do get to see my family and friends which is always a good thing. If I tried to get them all up here for a visit FlyBe and NorthLink could retire on a healthy profit. And I have made some sacrifices by moving so far away from my roots. So while I could continue at length about its problems, here instead is a list of the things I miss about The Dear Green Place in which the coming months will see me indulge:

1. Curry. I’ve tasted curry in Glasgow, Lerwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leicester, Nottingham, Leeds, London, Bristol, Southampton , Portsmouth, Stockholm and Jakarta. Glasgow is the best.

2. Libraries. Lovely old municipal libraries like Partick and Maryhill and the Mitchell. Playgrounds for the mind of any age clasped in beautiful architecture.

3. Salandini’s Traditional Italian Barber Shop. Tucked away on that wee bit of West Princess St. near Kelvinbridge Underground, Luigi and his son Antonio cut your hair, shave your chin and read your mind with Scicilian flair over espresso.

4. Swanning Up and Down That Byres Road Thinking Ahm Sumthin Ahm Urny. Where better than Byres Roads million coffee shops to indulge your delusions of grandeur, waving at mini celebs you hardly know and paying an absolute fortune for not bad coffee while working on your screenplay.

5. Lounge and Twee. Glasgow’s musical twins. The pumped up funk, soul and exotica of the Latin lounge and the lo-fi, mumblecore of the  bedsit keep Glasow melodious.

6. Vintage Shops. Whether it’s records, books, clothing or bric-a-brac, if you want some rock-solid, mint-condition slices of history then the tragically few remaining independent second had traders will sort you out.
Perhaps when I get back I’ll feature all these things in a theme park called Peerie Glasgow in an attempt to revitalise the Unst Economy. I just may get an arts trust grant.

Sandy Nelson


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